Race to the Bottom of the Sea

33799086by Lindsay Eagar
Children’s Lit
4 of 5 stars

I’ve been looking forward to her next book since Hour of the Bees, so I was so excited to get my hands on this! It’s completely different, but I enjoyed it and it showcased the same great writing and layered characters.

When Fidelia’s parents die in a submarine accident, her life falls apart. Her family, her future, her love of the ocean, her dreams of scientific discoveries, gone. Then she’s kidnapped by the devilish pirate Merrick the Monstrous to use her knowledge and inventions to help him find some lost treasure. Treasure that will easily outlast the gravely ill pirate. Fidelia isn’t sure about anything anymore, especially her ability to perfect her one failed invention–an underwater breathing device–but she has to find some answers fast if she ever wants to see her home again.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story’s balance of grief, guilt, and humor, but there were quite a few aspects I enjoyed! Fidelia is a charming protagonist, a girl with a love for sharks, and a passion for science and invention. She is used to proving her worth to overcome her youth, and I liked how she awkwardly interacted with adults as she tries to grieve and grow into the person she’s meant to be. Merrick’s backstory is one filled with darkness and sympathy, and we are left to form our own thoughts on him, which I liked. The world is our world turned on its head (nine seas, different countries) during a time when exciting new discoveries are happening every week (circa the early 1900s). Fidelia’s determination to make her mark on the world is contagious and inspiring. The subject matter is heavy but dealt with as lightly as possible. In contrast to her debut novel, science is the magic here, making everything turn and come together and pushing Fidelia toward answers.

In short, I loved this! The threads of this story tie up nicely, but the bones of the book are strong enough to support that.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Race to the Bottom of the Sea is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary – After accidentally cursing her family during Obon, Saki Yamamoto has just three nights to undo it with the help (and mischief) of the spirits. See my review here.
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The Edge of the Abyss

26219455by Emily Skrutskie
Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

I have been waiting for this since I read the first book last year and it did not disappoint! More pirates, more adventure, more mayhem, more kissing!

Cas has had a tough three weeks since she pledged her loyalty to the pirate queen Santa Elena. But keeping busy with training lets her avoid Swift as much as possible, which is perfect. Then the crew of the Minnow discovers that Bao isn’t the only unregistered Reckoner in the NeoPacific—sightings of the untrained sea monsters, dubbed Hellbeasts, start popping up everywhere, threatening the entire ocean’s ecosystem (not to mention all the ships). Cas must find Bao and train him to fight the Hellbeasts if they want to restore balance to the ocean.

This book is filled with manipulative mind games from Santa Elena and the broken pieces of a relationship between Cas and Swift and I loved every page of it. All three women are ambitious, stubborn, ruthless, selfish, and constantly abrasive to each other. The power dynamics here are just addictive as Swift and Cas try to see if equal footing is even possible, and as Santa Elena challenges them to see who will be her successor. It’s a satisfying character study of pushing people to the brink of their conscience to see what they’ll do.

I felt like I could smell the sea the entire time, this story feels that real! I’m still impressed by how much the writing crams into such a short space. Every sentence is working hard and yet it’s easy to read. This short duology is a swashbuckling adventure you shouldn’t pass up!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Edge of the Abyss is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Adelina chose to embrace her powers and it is leading to a rift between her and her sister Violetta, and her allies. It’s also opening a darkness within her that she must face before it destroys her. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel and Arin engage in games of deception that affect the war between their nations and the warning desires in their own hearts. For power plays and mind games there’s no better book than this! See my review here.
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What to read again:

Reading the previous books in a series a second time lets you soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—I find it makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman


Pirates are gaining traction in YA and I couldn’t be happier about it! This explores Edward “Teach” Drummond’s past before he became known as Blackbeard. What led the son of a wealthy merchant to piracy? And who was the Anne behind his ship’s name? The rich historical aspects add to the chance meeting between penniless Anne and wealthy Teach as they both struggle for freedom in their lives. Don’t miss this background to the sequel coming out next month!


What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Truthwitch by Susan DennardTruthwitch

I adored this book and the pacing is unmatched! Nonstop action with incredible characters and world-building. Best friends Safi and Iseult have gotten into and out of a lot of scrapes over the years, but now they’re in over their heads. Three different groups and governments are hunting Safi for her truth-seeing abilities, and they don’t know where to turn or who to trust. As they race around the world, barely one step ahead, the true nature of the plot begins to come together.

No more spoilers, but you can see my review here! Windwitch is the second in this series of four books. It comes out in a few weeks, so pick this up now because you’ll want more of this story!


The Abyss Surrounds Us

abyss surrounds usby Emily Skrutskie
YA Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: February 8, 2016

This book was an amazing surprise! I’ve had this on my list since I heard “pirates + sea monsters + LGBT” and it was nothing like what I expected–in a good way! The setting was a lot to absorb. In the first few pages we learn the United States has dissolved due to rising sea levels, and pirates are destroying the limited sea trade that’s trying to survive. In response, giant, genetically engineered monsters (Reckoners) are bred and trained in labs to sink pirate ships. Cassandra (Cas) Leung is one of those trainers–in training. As you can probably guess, her first solo mission is a complete disaster. Enter: the pirate queen Santa Elena and her crew of miscreants!

The first fifty-ish pages are a bit clunky from explaining what the world is like and introducing a bunch of characters amidst near non-stop action. After that, it was smooth sailing (sorry, I had to)! Santa Elena ties Cas to one of her trainees, Swift–a teenage girl with a partially-shaved head and a short fuse–and orders Cas to train the Reckoner she’s mysteriously acquired to fight FOR the pirates. If Cas doesn’t do it, Santa Elena will kill Cas and Swift. At first, Cas doesn’t care. Swift is just another pirate girl responsible for terrible attacks on innocent people. All pirates are the same.

But as Cas shares Swift’s room and learns what the pirate girl is really like, the lines between “good” and “evil” begin to blur.

Cas is an incredibly nuanced character! She is the gold nugget of this book. Cas starts off seeing the world as black and white, and her narration matches that. She’s direct, honest, stubbornly holding to her principles. But then Swift introduces all sorts of shades of gray and Cas realizes she herself might be as monstrous as the pirates–it’s just hidden on the inside. (I don’t want to say more because of spoilers). As she gradually develops mixed feelings about her past and her current imprisonment aboard the ship, we see how someone’s point of view can change so subtly, with just one choice at a time. And it’s not until the end when you realize you are so far from where you meant to be.

The end of this story had me completely riveted, and I’m pretty sure my jaw was hanging open for most of it. Cas is a new favorite character for me (even though I’m not sure I like her–explain that!)  and I’m incredibly exited for a potential sequel!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Abyss Surrounds Us is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina has never been the favorite sister, but when strange and terrifying powers manifest in her, she realizes she is one of the Young Elites–survivors of the blood fever given dangerous abilities. Now she has to decide what to do with them. See my review here.
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  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – A breathless chase across the seas and the world as rogues and allies hunt Safi for her truth-seeing ability. Safi and Iseult know the price on their heads, but they don’t know there’s a bigger conspiracy at work. See my review here.
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